Holiday Cocktails Are The Buzz


We’ve rounded up some holiday-themed cocktails that can be found around San Diego, to keep you feeling warm, festive, and hydrated on the party circuit this season!

Coconut Beach Holiday Cocktails at The Patio on Lamont | Pacific Beach 

The Patio on Lamont is partnering with San Diego-based coconut water company, Coconut Beach, to make merrymaking easier this year with coconut water cocktails. Packed with essential electrolytes and potassium, coconut water is key to getting through the holiday season sans hangover. Created by lead bartender Richard Shina,  the Coconut Rum Pum Pum Pum and Coco-Nutcracker cocktails are both mixed with Coconut Beach 100 % Pure Coconut Water, and can be jollily sipped on The Patio on Lamont’s cozy, charming patio all season long.

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Fish Shop Halibut Recipe

San Diego Food FindsAre you looking for new ways to prepare lighter dishes? Enter a sea of possibilities from Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Pacific Beach Fish Shop and Encinitas Fish Shop. Offering the freshest seafood, as well as seasonings and sauces made from scratch, it’s a breeze to get hooked on tasty entrees such as the Lemon Butter Halibut. Infused with the flavor of lemon and accompanied by a blend of sautéed vegetables, the recipe is so easy and versatile, you can switch out the fish for salmon, cod, shrimp or scallops.

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Easy Miso Soup Recipe

San Diego Food Finds

Recipe and Photography By Maria Desiderata Montana

While shopping at Trader Joe’s, I make it a point to pick up a box or two of their Miso Ginger Broth. It’s the perfect base for my favorite Miso Soup With Tofu and Mushrooms. After all, nothing tastes better then a light and healthy soup for lunch or dinner!

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Magical Voodoo Tacos Recipe

Photo Courtesy of The Duck Dive

The Duck Dive Voodoo Tacos

After one bite, you will be under the spell of The Duck Dive’s magical Voodoo Tacos. The coastal eatery gives the salmon tacos a kick with a special Sriracha- and Sculpin-based sauce that will surprise and impress taste buds. The unique sauce paired with the refreshing flavors of Napa cabbage and papaya salsa will leave you hungry for more. Celebrate Taco Tuesday the Southern California way. Set the buns and hot dogs aside, and dive into these delicious tacos.

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Bracero Offers Unique Recipe

San Diego Food Finds

Carrot Aguachile

For casual or romantic dining experiences, Bracero Cocina de Raiz offers lively street-level dining with an open kitchen so that guests can view the artful preparation of their meal. Specialty cocktails and fresh bites can also be ordered table-side from carts. Bracero’s entire second level features an exclusive mezzanine, indoor and outdoor seating and floor-to-ceiling interactive vertical bar towers.

Honoring the history of Mexican cuisine, Chef Javier Plascencia presents authentic Mexican flavors, ingredients and dishes that people haven’t had the opportunity to taste. Now you can make his easy to prepare recipe for Carrot Aguachile in the comfort of your own kitchen. 

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2 Chef Recipes For Halloween

Chef Recipes For Halloween

Superfood Popcorn

Halloween is around the corner and two of our favorite chefs have created recipes to enjoy while watching scary horror movies all weekend long. The first recipe is Superfood Popcorn by True Food Kitchen’s Executive Brand Chef, Arik Markus and the second is Here’s Johnny Johnny Cakes by Chef Andre Fuentes of The Patio Group

Executive Brand Chef Arik Markus of True Food Kitchen recommends snacking on superfood popcorn while while watching your favorite horror film this Halloween. Made with freshly popped corn and sprinkled with nutritional yeast, hemp, chia seeds and salt-free herb seasoning, it’s a guilt-free way to make it through any spooky movie. True Food Kitchen has 11 locations nationwide, and offers cuisine inspired by the world’s healthiest populations, focusing on wholesome, all-natural dishes that are prepared simply to highlight the natural health benefits and tastes of each ingredient. 

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Thanksgiving Dinner To Go

holiday-dinner-at-pechangaCooking for family and friends for the holidays can be a labor of love, however, it still is labor. This Thanksgiving and Christmas, the acclaimed culinary team at Pechanga Resort & Casino invite would-be home chefs to pick up drive-thru holiday dinners with all the fixings and pass it off as their own. No one at the dinner party has to know that all you did was call to place the order, drive into the Pechanga valet lane, and have a helpful staff member put your order in your car for you. Pots and pans stay clean, you get more time to catch up on family gossip, and maybe even enjoy a hard-earned holiday libation. After all, dialing the phone is hard work since no one does that anymore, right?

To order Thanksgiving dinner to go, call (951) 770-2307 by November 21. Call by December 23 to reserve Christmas dinner to go. All orders may be picked up from Pechanga’s hotel valet outside Blends Coffee & Wine Bar on Thursday, November 24 (Thanksgiving) and Sunday, December 25 (Christmas) between 11:00a.m. and 4:00p.m.

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San Diego Chef’s Table Book


Scones to sliders, book explores San Diego chefs’ recipes
Author shares recipes reflecting area’s diverse cultures, styles

By Roxana Popescu, U-T San Diego

For people who love San Diego and its restaurants, Maria Desiderata Montana’s new book, “San Diego Chef’s Table,” will be one tasty morsel. With recipes from established restaurants and new names, this uniquely San Diego collection offers highlights from all the region’s culinary offerings. She answered questions about her book, her love of food and her passion for this city.

Q: How did you get the idea for this book?

A: I am very fortunate in that my publisher first discovered me by reading my published food stories in various outlets online and through my blog, which started out as a fun hobby.

I came home from yoga class one morning, and there was an email waiting for me from my publisher at Globe Pequot Press. She (said) that she liked my writing style and asked me if I was interested in writing the “Food Lovers” Guide to San Diego’ (First Edition). After I finished that book, the publisher contacted me to write (this book).

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New Buffalo Inspired Recipes


Deviled Eggs at Backyard Kitchen and Tap

Trust us, there’s nothing wrong with the classic Buffalo Wing. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to say “buffalo” without immediately thinking “wing”. However, every now and then it’s time to try new takes on a traditional staple and San Diego restaurants are shaking things up with their out-of-the-box buffalo-inspired recipes. Check them out and rediscover your love for that famous sauce incorporated into unexpected dishes.

Are you and your friend trying to watch the football game? Head over to 1919, a sports bar in Gaslamp that offers elevated renditions of American classics. If wings just won’t cut it for you, try their Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. They start with crispy chicken, slather it in their house buffalo hot sauce, then top it off with bleu cheese crumbles on an airy pretzel roll.

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Simple Potato Soup Recipe

I like to keep foods simple and pure! I was inspired today by plain russett potatoes and Italian oregano from my garden. Enjoy my Simple Potato Soup recipe from my rustic Italian kitchen.

Simple Potato Soup


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2/3 cup bacon bits
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 6 whole russet potatoes, boiled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons chicken seasoning
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh Italian oregano, for garnish

Add oil to a large pot. Add bacon bits and scallions; cook over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Add water and chicken seasoning; simmer on low-medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add soup to bowls and garnish with oregano.

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New Summer Olympics Cocktail At Loews Coronado

Loews CoronadoLoews Coronado is Paying Homage to the Global Games by Offering A “Melon Caipirinha” for Guests to Enjoy While Cheering on Their Favorite Team

Loews Coronado Bay Resort is raising Olympic fervor by inviting guests and locals alike to celebrate the Rio 2016 Olympics by serving up a distinctly crafted Caipirinha-inspired cocktail. Expert mixologist, Michael Olczak, developed the Melon Caipirinha by combining the fresh flavors of sugar, cachaça and lime for sport enthusiasts to enjoy while watching the global games from August 5-21.

“In the spirit of competition and with all eyes on Brazil, Loews Hotels is celebrating the Rio games with a twist on the host country’s Caipirinha that reflect the distinctiveness of our destinations,” says Mark Weiss, Senior Vice President of Food & Beverage at Loews Hotels. “We’re excited to offer guests a chance to toast their favorite teams and competitors.”

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Buffalo Wings Recipe Is The Real Deal

Chicken WingsThere’s no arguing that the Buffalo Wing is the King of all of party foods. Why? Well, first of all they are easy to share. Second, their flavor is enhanced by swigs of beer. Lastly, they even have their own national holiday celebrating their sauciness!

With July 29th being National Chicken Wing Day, Pillbox Tavern’s Fuego Wing Recipe is sure to spice up the dog days of summer with a hot twist on the traditional wing flavor. This backyard BBQ favorite starts with Franks Buffalo Sauce and butter and then adds the must-have ingredients of cayenne, black pepper, Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes and serrano peppers.

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Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Stuffing peppers with nutrients: Protein-rich wild rice in peppers makes a powerful, tasty and colorful everyday meal

Shake up your routine this school year with a healthy and delicious weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy.

All too often, a family’s busy routine doesn’t allow for much time to create a meal the kids will enjoy, especially if the meal involves a vegetable. I’ve created an affordable recipe of fresh green peppers stuffed with a wild rice mixture that’s topped with marinara sauce. It is a colorful dish that’s also a real time saver in the kitchen.

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Chicken recipe is light but full of flavor

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

My mother’s southern Italian cooking is rustic and fiery, with recipes often calling for sweet tomatoes and hot peppers, the perfect ingredients for an authentic sauce.

Since one of my mom’s favorite dishes is baked Chicken Parmesan in a marinara sauce, I decided to wow her for Mother’s Day with a modern take on this nostalgic dish that is light and healthful.

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Prepkitchen Fudge Brownie Recipe

If you love brownies that taste like they came out of the oven, don’t miss the Pecan Fudge Brownies sold only at Prepkitchen locations. Now that I have the recipe, I enjoy making these in my kitchen. I know you will too!

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

For the Brownies

  • 1-½ sticks (6 ounces) butter
  • 3 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Yield: 1 9×13 inch pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine butter and chocolate in small heat proof bowl. Heat over a water bath until melted. Set aside until room temperature

In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment- combine eggs, brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Whip until mixture is thick and holds a ribbon with the whip.

Take bowl off mixer and pour in chocolate and sift flour over. Gently fold mixture with a spatula.

Spread into pan that has been sprayed or buttered and floured. Bake about 25- 30 minutes.

Brownies will still be fudgy but the top should be shiny and cracked. Cool completely in pan.

For Salted Caramel Layer

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1-½ teaspoon vanilla Extract
  • 1-½ cups pecans toasted
  • 1 tablespoon Fleur de Sel

In a medium sized pot combine sugar, corn syrup, and just enough water to make the mixture the consistency of wet sand. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a wet brush so that no granules of sugar remain. Cook this mixture over high heat until it is a deep amber color.

Immediately take off heat and slowly add the cream (mixture will bubble and expand vigorously (use caution).

Add vanilla extract and salt. Add pecans and stir to coat with caramel. Immediately pour over brownies.

To cut: refrigerate brownies for 30 minutes so that the caramel gets firm.

My Not So Creamy Seafood Fettuccine

San Diego Food FindsMy seafood fettuccine is a very light dish that’s easy to prepare. My version isn’t as creamy as you would normally expect. I like to keep it simple with extra-virgin olive oil, butter and fresh herbs. Make sure to get a fresh baguette for extra dipping.

Get 25 of my authentic Italian recipes in my new book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History Of Little Italy And beyond.

Not So Creamy Seafood Fettuccine

Serves 4

  • 2 cans minced clams
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces cocktail shrimp, precooked
  • 6-ounce can crab meat
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound fettuccine, cooked according to package instructions
  • Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated (as much as you like), for garnish
  • Handful of freshly chopped basil, for garnish

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Grandma’s Italian Soup Recipe Is Still A Family Favorite

Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking. My mother took the fresh produce my father created and taught me how to prepare cucina Italiana by smell, touch and taste. As a child watching her in the kitchen, I was fascinated with the movement of her hands as she wove intricate details into preparing the made-from-scratch, mouthwatering meals that her mother had served, and her mother before her.

I’ve provided some of my favorite Italian recipes in my new book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond.  Many of the recipes were handed down from my mother’s kitchen, including the following Italian soup.

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Roasted Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Photo and recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

Roasted Tomato and Mascarpone Bruschetta


6 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
Extra–virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 baguette
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Handful of pea tendrils

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Classic Tijuana Original Caesar Salad Recipe

Caesar Salad RecipeHonoring the rich culinary history of Tijuana’s restaurateurs, Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro crafts the Classic Tijuana Original Caesar Salad tableside.

This dish originated in Tijuana as the culinary creation of namesake Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant living in Mexico during the 1920s. The Bonita restaurant has continued the tradition of serving the salad, and now you can create the taste from the comfort of your own home.

Often touted as the first successful culinary export from Tijuana, the Caesar salad is infused with the fresh and zesty flavors of lime, anchovies, olive oil, egg and garlic. Whether enjoying the legendary dish during a lunch break or family dinner, it does not disappoint.

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Southern Style Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

My Italian upbringing meant meatballs in the house—meatballs covered with marinara, fried meatballs, baked meatballs, meatball sandwiches—you name it. These meatballs are easy to prepare, the ingredients are affordable, and it’s the ideal meal for lunch or dinner. Your family will love it so much that you’ll want to make these often.

Southern Style Italian Meatballs

Serves 4

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (or Maria’s Marinara Sauce; see recipe)

Preheat oven to broil. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; incorporate thoroughly. Roll the meat between the palms of your hands to desired size. Place meatballs on a broiling pan, and cook in the oven, turning often, until brown and cooked through. Serve with marinara sauce.

Maria’s Marinara Sauce

It was my father who started his own slow-food revolution in our family, a revolution I carry on in my family today. He picked olives and tended his large organic garden of fruits and vegetables, including fava beans, escarole, rapini and broccoli, he cherished the Roma and plum tomatoes as his most prized possession. Buy some organic tomatoes at the farmers’ market and make this sauce. Serve it over pasta, over your favorite vegetables or simply for dipping with a crusty Italian baguette. I guarantee you and your family will love it.

Serves 8-10

  • 12 medium-size ripe tomatoes
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
  • Red wine (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Chicken bouillon, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30–35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel and core. Place in a blender, in small batches, and puree until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to a large saucepot; bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency (You can substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients; cover and simmer over low heat for about 25–30 minutes.

For the pasta:

  • 1 (16-ounce) package whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 small block Parmesan Cheese, grated, for garnish

Place the pasta in a large bowl. Ladle some sauce over pasta and toss gently. Garnish with Parmesan.

Recipes by Maria Desiderata Montana

Italian Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls Recipe Maria Desiderata Montana

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

There was no such thing as fast food in our home; ingredients were simple and straightforward, and this recipe is no exception. This was one of my favorite recipes that my Italian mother made for me often, simply because I asked her too!

Cabbage Rolls With Brown Rice and Marinara

Serves 6


18 Chinese cabbage leaves
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground Italian sausage
1-1/2 cups prepared brown rice
¼ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of chili flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

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Perfectly Baked Lasagna Recipe


Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

When it comes to the perfect casserole dish, baked lasagna tops my list. This dish of alternating layers of pasta sheets, topped with a flavorful sauce and cheese, is easy to assemble, tastes delicious and is always a crowd-pleaser.

There are a number of theories on where the popular name was born, but most references agree the word originated in the Greek language for flat, unleavened bread or pasta dough cut in sheets. The Romans used a similar word lasanum, the Latin word for “cooking pot,” to describe the pan in which the dish is made. Later, the name was adopted for the food itself.Different regions in Italy serve lasagna in various ways. In Northern Italy, a typical lasagna recipe has a Béchamel sauce as its base, with the addition of vegetables such as spinach, eggplant or mushrooms. I prefer the Southern Italian version with its hallmark use of ricotta cheese and a traditional Bolognese sauce that can include ground beef, pork sausage or veal.

I serve my lasagna with red wine and a crusty Italian bread. Add a fresh green salad of escarole and romaine lettuces dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and dinner is served.

Buon Appetito!

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Maria’s Marinara Sauce

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Maria’s Marinara Sauce

Makes 8-10 servings

12 medium-size ripe tomatoes, roasted (directions follow)

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

Red wine (optional)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Chicken seasoning powder (Knorr recommended), to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

6 bay leaves

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel, core and purée in small batches in a blender.

Transfer tomato purée to a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency. (I like to substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat covered for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

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